Cowichan Independent Living is getting ready to celebrate Access Awareness Day on June 3, after two years of severely curtailed programs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The day falls within National AccessAbility Week (May 29 to June 4), and the group will be highlighting their adaptive recreation program, which is ready once again in 2022 to get into full swing.
“Cowichan Independent Living’s mission is to empower persons with disabilities and remove barriers so that all can assume risks, make choices and contribute to society,” says a press release for the event. “This is one of our favourite events of the year. We get to open our doors and show our communities all we can offer, share our stories and invite everyone to participate in our organization.”
The group describes themselves as a small non-profit society offering a wide range of services for people with disabilities, including skills development, peer support, work experience, volunteer opportunities, parking placards for handicap parking and medical loans (crutches, air casts, bath benches, walkers etc.).
One of the jewels in their crown, however, is the adaptive recreation program that offers everything from swimming to bowling to sailing.
The sailing program calls the Ladysmith Community Marina home and is aided by the Ladysmith Maritime Society. In 2019 it provided 180 hours of sailing to about 50 people with physical, emotional and developmental disabilities.
“Many with all three, because that’s what happens when you become disabled,” said organizers. “Your body mind and soul are so interconnected that one drags down the others. So when you find an activity, that you, as a disabled person, can participate in which feeds all of those needs it is so fulfilling. With recreation opportunities for the disabled so limited here in the Valley it is crucial we maintain what we have.
“We were also able to give six able bodied people and six with disabilities the opportunity to volunteer. You can’t put a price on the feeling it gives you as a person with a disability to help another get out and enjoy the outdoors.”
The program was basically shut down due to COVID in 2020, and in 2021 they were only able to host a few bowling, swimming, movie and puzzle days from their office, activities that were nonetheless enjoyed by many.
In 2022, the organization has been given space to employ a pair of Canada summer students and are “headed full swing into a very busy and exciting summer.”
It all kicks off on June 3 with a free pancake breakfast at the Cowichan Independent Living offices at 531 Canada Ave. in Duncan, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., to which the entire community is invited.
It’s a great opportunity for those aged 15 to 30 interested in the two Canada summer job positions to introduce themselves, and the group is also looking for volunteers to help with summer events, especially those with sailing experience.
“This year we are really hoping to make a comeback and provide many more opportunities for our community members that have been really struggling with the severe isolation they experienced during the COVID pandemic,” explained organizers. “Many of our clients and community members rely on the programs run by small organizations like ours to get their much needed support and face to face time with their peers.”